Lesson One: On Any Journey, Bring Extra Napkins

Fellow Dirty Girl, Shirley Ramos, and I are forever talking about how life is a journey… we discuss the views, the weather and cautiously examine those ‘less traveled’ paths…

My new year journey is a real one, not just a metaphorical one. And while it’s personal, how much of our professional lives are truly isolated from our personal ones? Especially as wives and mothers, fathers and husbands. It may be easy to keep the Tuesday afternoon dentist appointment and the Wednesday morning staff meeting distinctly compartmentalized, but that’s mere scheduling. Is the Mother-Me, the Wife-Me and the Personal-Me really so different, so distinct from the Work-Me? I think not. After all, whether it’s my youngest son or a co-worker, talking with your mouth full of food still irks me. You can be my 16 year old daughter or my graphic designer, and I will be equally annoyed when you interrupt me. And say so. In the work environment, I am still me… with every single personality quirk fully intact. And why would we work so hard to create a separate Work-Me? After all, we are hired for who we are and what we bring to the table.

So I am sharing some pieces of my journey in the next few blog posts, a few lessons from our very real journey and how the experience impacts the Total-Me.

Day One
I started a six day journey from Arizona to Florida. Yes, it can be done it fewer days but I’m taking advantage of the drive to see some sights along the way – both noteworthy and notorious. And while enjoying the physical beauty that is the southern swath of our country, I am also getting a closer glimpse into the inner workings of my traveling companions. There are few situations that put you in such close contact with other physical beings – in this case, my children (ages 11, 15 and 16) – than cruising I-10 in a cozy 2004 Toyota Corolla through 550 miles of desert.

The first day of any long journey is the easiest – energy is up, adventure is forthcoming and, if you have a mother like mine, you’ve got plenty of snacks. Our cooler is apocalypse-ready: abundant with turkey sandwiches, ham sandwiches, chicken, ribs, chips, cookies, brownies, edamame and almonds, just for a start. Dad threw in the emergency kit, extra towels and had the car looked over by a mechanic. Twice. (It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult over 40… your parents are still your parents). All this prep meant that our nine hours of driving started with a punch colored sunrise and only stopped for coffee, diet coke and the loo.

Lesson One: Bring Extra Napkins for the Unexpected
Our journey took us east on I-10 to Las Cruces, NM, then we cut north on 70 to Roswell. We didn’t realize we’d be rising high enough in elevation to see snow, but we did. And so we stopped the car to reacquaint ourselves with it… before our newly acquired Floridian genes kicked in and we jumped back into the Corolla with icy, wet fingers and glee.

I thoroughly expected someone to spill a drink in the car – I have three kids, so really, when does someone NOT spill? I did not expect it to be me, but there I was with my Starbucks soy mocha splashed generously across the front of my white shirt only two hours into our journey.

For entertainment, we have over 30 hours of audiobooks – a novel, a stand-up comic and a collection of short stories. Turns out, the standup comic’s schtick was so uncomfortably bad that even my 11 year old squirmed and the discs were duly pitched at the next rest stop. So the kids filled the void with their own jokes. Some of these a mother does not need to hear. Others were surprisingly clever and my 15 year old son laughed so hard at one of his own jokes that he vomited. Down the front of his sweatshirt. Humor is known to help heal but apparently an overdose can also make you sick.

The mass of napkins and paper towels we tossed at the end of the day were a mess of coffee, hot chocolate, melted snow, snot, vomit, zucchini bread crumbs and a lot of optimism that we will get through the next five days still speaking to each other.

Any journey has moments that get messy. Look at your own Work-Me: for any project, you do a certain amount of preparation. Some of us prepare like my parents, for every possible contingency. Others, like me, grab our keys and sunglasses and believe we’ll figure it out as we go. And our cast of coworkers/traveling companions then impacts the decisions we make, the amount of time we spend planning and the way in which we execute. There will be spills, spews and other mishaps that require cleaning up or brushing aside.

Fortunately, we brought a lot of extra napkins.

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